Curb Appeal On A Budget

By: Opha Phillips

Before listing your home, the first area to examine is the exterior of your home.  Most buyers will decide within the first few minutes how they feel about a property based upon its exterior appearance, so below are some budget-friendly tips to spruce up your curb appeal:

Paint the Front Door and Shutters

Put a fresh coat of paint on the front door and shutters.  This will draw a buyer’s eyes to the newness of the paint and distract attention from other areas that may need touching up.

Freshen up Landscaped Areas and Add a Pop of Color

Weed flower beds, trim bushes and hedges, and plant colorful flowers to make landscaped areas look fresh and vibrant.

Remove Lawn Ornaments

Lawn ornaments can sometimes be distracting to a buyer.  Remember, you want a potential buyer to imagine this is their home from the minute they arrive on the property.

Clean Windows Inside and Out

Cleaning all windows will allow a buyer to see straight through to the inside of a property and give the home a clean and inviting presence.

Mow and Edge the Lawn

Keep the lawn mowed and edged on a regular basis to give your home a well-manicured, professional look and feel.


Buying a Home

By: Opha Phillips

Once you have made the decision to purchase a home, you may wonder what are the next steps needed to make this life-changing decision a reality.  To assist you with this effort, here some helpful tips to simplify the process and make this an enjoyable experience.

  • Check Your Credit Scores / Reports

It’s important for you to know your credit score and verify the accuracy of your credit reports, preferably from all three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.  Having your current credit reports available will provide you with an opportunity to dispute and correct inaccurate information.  In addition, knowing your current credit scores will allow you to take steps, if needed, to improve your credit scores prior to beginning the pre-approval process and ultimately applying for a home loan.

  • Save For A Down Payment

There are many different options when it comes to obtaining a mortgage, but all will require some form of a down payment.  Take the time to speak with potential lenders, to understand the loan programs available as well as the associated minimum down payment requirements.

  • Obtain Pre-Approval

After selecting a lending institution, work with them to obtain a pre-approval letter.  This is a valuable tool in the home buying process, as it provides you with the maximum allowable loan amount and assures sellers that any offers you make are backed by a pre-approval letter.

  • Interview & Select a Real Estate Agent

Whether you are a local resident or new to the area, you want to make sure your real estate agent understands your wants and needs. Go into each interview / meeting with a list of questions to ask the agent.  These questions should include topics such as knowledge of the local market conditions, years of real estate experience, and familiarity with the local areas, including school options, retail establishments, and dining / entertainment options.

  • Start Home Shopping

Once you have completed the above steps, you are ready to begin searching for suitable homes.  Take your time to view multiple homes in your preferred neighborhoods, and be sure to complete follow-up showings for the finalist properties, as it is common to overlook certain areas on an initial walk-through.  Once you have made final decision, work with your real estate agent to research comparable properties, which will assist in developing the formal offer.

Selling Your Home

Listing Process with Opha Phillips


At some point during life, you are likely to experience the process of selling your home.  Although this can be a stressful time, there are things you can do to get ahead of the stress by making sure your home is absolutely ready before it hits the market. First, ask yourself if you are truly ready to sell your home?  If so, you should approach the listing of your home in two phases: the pre-listing and the post-listing.  Below are some tips to make the selling of your home a smooth transaction.


Curb Appeal

The first thing buyers will see is the front of your house, so please don’t overlook this area. Does your front door need a fresh coat of paint or stain? How about the shutters? Could the house use a good pressure wash to clean off accumulated dirt?  Also, make sure the lawn is cut regularly and sidewalks are cleared of any debris.

To Paint or not to Paint

Examine your home to determine if it needs a fresh coat of paint on the walls to freshen things up and bring new life to a space.  Remember, you want a buyer to envision each room as their own, so neutral colors tend to be ideal.

Small Repairs & Updates

Go through each room and see if there is anything that needs to be fixed, identifying simple fixes such as installing a new light fixture, updating door hardware, or fixing a leaky faucet.  Think of it this way…the more issues you are able to address up-front, the fewer complications that will come up during the home sale process.

Clean & De-Clutter

Clean, clean, clean your house, and I mean everything including baseboards and all windows.  While sometimes difficult, go through your property and de-personalize it, as you want potential buyers to see your home as their future home. If areas of your home, such as closets, are overflowing with personal items, consider renting a storage unit while your home is on the market.  Remove any extra furniture so the rooms do not feel small.



Staging is the process of placing objects in your home to show it in its best light.  One way to do this is by taking a picture of each room and then examining how the furniture and lighting looks in the space.  Also, examining photos will help to reveal potential layout issues, to ensure that there is adequate flow from one room to another, which is especially important for open concept designs.  Simple measures such as adding some throws and pillows to your living room can enhance the feel of your home giving it a warm, cozy atmosphere.  Also, placing flowers in the house will not only smell good but give the house a cheerful disposition.

Contact a Listing Agent

Once you feel your house is ready for the market, call  to set up a listing appointment.  During this appointment we will go through and view your home to compare it with other properties that are currently on the market, as well as ones that have recently sold. During this time we may also make a few suggestions that we feel will make the property sell and sell quickly.



1. A Coldwell Banker Gosslee sign will be installed with Opha’s personal name rider attached to it.

2. A NWLAR secured key box will be placed on the property immediately after listing or upon completion of new construction.

3. The property information is entered into the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).

4. Property information and photographs will be entered and uploaded onto the following websites: http://www.ophaphillips.com, http://www.coldwellbankergossllee.com, http://www.coldwellbanker.com, http://www.realtor.com, http://www.realestate.yahoo.com.

5. Several photographs will be taken of the property including, but not limited to: Exterior shots, Family Room, Formal Living Room, Formal Dining Room, Kitchen, Breakfast Area, Laundry Room, Master Bedroom, Master Bathroom, Other Bedrooms, Other Bathrooms, Game Rooms, etc. If the home is still under construction at the time of the listing, the floor plan and front elevation will be scanned into the computer and uploaded. Pictures will then be taken at the appropriate stages of construction.

6. A virtual tour will be completed and uploaded onto MLS and above mentioned websites within five days of property being photographed.

7. Property information and contact information will be uploaded onto the CSS website in order for you to view showing feedback 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If an email address is available, you will be emailed a username, password and login instructions.

8. Copies of the listing agreement will be emailed or mailed to the appropriate parties.

9. Upon completion of photographs, color flyers will be designed, printed and placed inside property. If necessary, an information tube can be installed on the sign with black and white flyers equipped with property information. However, please understand that Opha Phillips does not suggest information tubes be placed on sign simply because we prefer that prospective buyers call us for information on the home.


fortune cookie2.pngCoffee should be hot. Beer should be cold. Mexican food should be spicy. However, if these things are less than the standard that you expect, there are not any lasting consequences.

As the value of the object in question rises, either in price or gravity, the expectations usually increase and decisions become progressively more important. Marriage, children, health and careers are certainly a few of the more important items that bear careful consideration.

The sale of the largest asset that most people own, their home, also merits having reasonable expectations. A homeowner should expect to get the market value for their home in a reasonable period of time with as few inconveniences as possible.

According to the latest Home Buyers and Sellers Survey, more homeowners are entrusting the sale of their home to real estate professionals. Owners can increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome by sharing their expectations with agents prior to listing their home for sale.

Challenge your agent to explain what they intend to do to:

  • Price the home correctly
  • Prepare the home to make a good impression
  • Position the home in the marketplace

It is reasonable for a seller to expect the agent will work hard to sell the home; will tell the truth and represent the client’s interests to the best of their ability. Agents exemplify remarkable service when they exceed the seller’s expectations.

retain remove.jpgThe more things you have, the more you have to take care of. And in this case, the more that you have to store that gets in the way of finding the things that you actually use. Periodically, you need to go through every closet, drawer, cabinet and storage area to get rid of the things that are just taking up space in your home and your life.

Every item requires the decision to retain or remove. Consider these questions as you examine each item:

• When was the last time you used it?
• Do you believe you’ll use it again?
• Is there a sentimental reason to keep it?

You have four options for the things that you’re not going to keep. If you know someone who needs it or will appreciate it, you can give it to them. You can sell it in a garage sale or on Craig’s List. You can donate it to a charity and receive a tax deduction or you can discard it to the trash.

Start with your closet. If you haven’t worn something in five years, get rid of it. Then, go through the things again and if you haven’t worn it in two years, ask yourself the real probability that you’ll wear it again.

Another way to do it is to move it from your active closet to another closet. If a year goes by in the other closet, the next time you go through this exercise, those clothes are on their way out.

If the items taking up space are financial records and receipts, the solution may be to scan them and store them in the cloud. There are plenty of sites that will offer you several gigabytes of free space and it may cost as little as $10 a month for 100 GB at Dropbox to get the additional space you need. It will certainly be cheaper than the mini-storage building.

Rate Payment Relationship 2 small.pngA ½% increase in interest rate may not sound like much but it is roughly equivalent to a 5% increase in price. It becomes obvious when you compare the payments.

If you financed 100% of the cost of a $250,000 home at 4.5% interest for 30 years, the payment would be $1,266.71 per month. If the mortgage rate went up to 5%, the payment would be $1,342.05. If the home increased 5% in value, the $262,250 loan at the lower 4.5% rate would have payments of $1,330.05.

The two payments are close enough to justify the statement that a ½% change in interest is approximately equal to 5% change in price.

Each time interest rates go up, fewer people can qualify to buy a seller’s home. The mortgage rules that went into effect this year require buyers to meet specific payment to income ratios. As demand picks up for the seasonal market, most experts expect rates to increase.

Buyers will be doubly challenged in the current market because prices are rising (NAR reports 11% last year) along with the anticipated mortgage rates. Buyers who wait will inevitably be paying more to live in the same home had they acted sooner.

Check out on how Interest Affects Price for a home in your price range.

Buy or rent small.jpgWhether you continue to rent or decide to buy a home, according to recent Zillow 2014 housing projections, the cost is going up. Zillow projects home prices to increase nationally by 3%, mortgages to rise to 5% interest rate by the end of the year and rents to go up by 2.5% on average.

If it will cost a person more whether they rent or buy, the conclusion can be made that one way or the other, they will pay for the house they occupy. The question will be whether they buy it for themselves or their landlord? Will they benefit from the equity build-up and the appreciation?

The following analysis looks at a $200,000 home that can be purchased with a 30 year FHA mortgage at 4.3%. The assumption uses 3% appreciation and tenant currently paying $1,750 a month in rent.

The house payment, principal, interest, taxes and insurance would be about $1,609 a month. However, once you consider the benefits of the principal reduction each month, the appreciation and the tax savings and the increased cost of maintenance, the net cost of housing is closer to $630 per month.

Even if you ignored the tax savings, the net cost of housing would only be $919.06 per month. The tenant would pay considerably more to rent than to own the home. Over time, the decision to buy a home could result in a considerable financial asset that the tenant will not benefit from.

To estimate your cost of housing, use the Rent vs. Own.